ROME — Famous French author Albert Camus, who died in a car accident in 1960, may have been the victim of a Soviet plot, new research suggests.
Italian academic Giovanni Catelli, an eastern European specialist, put forward the theory in the pages of the Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera. On Monday it was greeted with scepticism among other experts.
He noted that a passage in a diary written by Czech poet Jan Zabrana, published as a book, was absent from the Italian translation.
According to Catelli the missing paragraph concerns a meeting between Zabrana and and a Russian KGB contact.
"I heard something very strange from a man who knew lots of things and had very informed sources," Zabrana writes in the unexpurgated version.
"He said the road accident that cost Albert Camus his life in 1960 was organised by Soviet spies. They damaged a tyre on the car using a piece of equipment that blew out the tyre at a certain speed."
Camus died at the age of 46 when travelling on an icy road in the car of his publisher Michel Gallimard which ploughed into a tree.
Catelli wrote that the order to kill Camus came directly from the then Soviet foreign minister Dmitri Shepilov, angered by an article published in a French magazine in 1957 in which Camus held him responsible for Moscow's decision to send in troops to crush the Hungarian uprising the previous year.
The James Bond-style scenario did not convince French philosopher Michel Onfray, who is working on a biography of the French literary great.
"I don't think that is plausible. The KGB had other ways to finish off Albert Camus," he told AFP.
He pointed out that Camus at the time of his death had a return ticket from his home in Provence to Paris where he was intending to spend the Christmas holidays with his family.
Only at the last minute did he agree to take a lift from his friend Gallimard, adding that the publisher's powerful Facel Vega car was not particularly good at holding the road.
Vojtech Ripka, at the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague, was also highly sceptical of Catelli's version of events, adding that in any case the claims would be impossible to verify given the tight hold Russia keeps on information about the old Communist secret police.